Erich Murphy's Sez MEE column

    We finally have wonderful track weather, and it’s only time for the state finals to take place. Fortunately, the Daily Leader coverage area will be represented quite nicely from Thursday through Saturday at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Field (or stadium, whatever one wants to call it; there are signs signifying both at the place).
    If there is a team that will bring home state hardware, it will be Ridgeview in Class 1A. The Mustangs will be represented in nine events, including the 200-meter dash that features two runners from the Ridgeview-Lexington co-op program.
    Two of the events feature returning state champions, and one has the best mark heading into the finals preliminaries on Thursday.
    Mason Barr won the 300-meter intermediate hurdles last year as a sophomore. He is back looking to repeat and sits fifth among the qualifiers at 39.53 seconds coming out of last week’s sectionals.
    The 4x200 relay won last year’s Class 1A title and return two of the four legs in Barr and Tate Walcott. Jacob Donaldson and Alex Tongate are the new legs in looking to give the Mustangs a repeat. The foursome is sitting at second coming into the prelims with a time of 1:30.97.
    Walcott will be looking for state hardware in four events. Besides running in the 4x200, the Lexington junior will compete in the 100-meter dash, where he is 26th coming in at 11.37 seconds. His time of 22:57 in the 200 has him sitting fourth-best.
    It’s the long jump where Walcott has the target. He leads the field with a mark of 23-5¾ coming out of sectionals.
    Barr is also looking to make noise in four events. Besides teaming with Walcott in the 4x200, Barr will be competing in the 200 dash after clocking 22.89 seconds at sectionals, which is good for 14th coming into state.
    Also, besides looking to defend his 300 hurdles title, Barr will take shot at the 110 highs, where he sits fourth after his time of 14.93 seconds.
    Donaldson will be a busy camper, as well. The Ridgeview senior not only runs a leg in the 4x200, he runs a leg in the other three relays that qualified. Tongate is also part of three relays.
    Donaldson and Tongate will be joined by Alex Brock and Barr in the 4x100 after their time of 44.48 at sectionals. That foursome is sitting 20th overall. Donaldson, Tongate and Brock will be teamed with freshman Zach Cavinder in the 4x400. The quartet sits 16th after its 3:31.56 time.
    El Paso-Gridley will have two competitors in Noah Smith and Jordan Shelton. Smith will run Saturday in the 3,200-meter run, where he sits 11th with a time of 10:04.01. Shelton is in the 400 and is 26th at 53.01 seconds.
    In Class 2A, Pontiac’s Cam Dawson will be looking to give the Indians points in the final standings in three events.
    Dawson is tied for fourth in the high jump after clearing 6-3 at sectionals. A lot of jumpers will stop after winning the event, so many, including Dawson, likely have better heights this season. There are 10 who come into the state preliminaries at 6-3.
    Dawson is also fourth, but this time by himself, in the triple jump after going 44-6½ last week. His long jump mark of 21-10 is good for eighth overall.
    The thing for Dawson is that these placements coming in, if they hold after the preliminaries, will get him into the finals on Saturday.
    Prairie Central will have a nice representation with six events. Leading the charge is Chandler Ifft, who is tied for first in the pole vault coming into state. He went 15 feet at the LaSalle-Peru Sectional.
    Also in the field, Zach Melton is ranked ninth in the shot put after a push of 51-½ at sectionals.
    The track looks to be a tougher road to travel if the Hawks are looking to get in the finals. The 4x200 relay team of Lee Zimmerman, Wes Semmerling, Wyatt Steidinger and Connor Haab is sitting seventh.
    The same four are in the 4x100 relay and enter at 22nd after a time of 43.61 seconds.
    Aiden Krieger will be looking to make the finals in the two hurdling events. The senior is 15th in the 110 highs at 15.23 seconds, and is 16th in the 300 intermediates at 40.44 seconds.
    Regardless of how well the area athletes do at state, the weather will be grand. It is expected to be in the mid-to-high 80s and plenty of sunshine. Let’s hope the area will be shining with state hardware when the meet ends.